November 7, 2009
From: Stabroek News
Guyana must establish an agency to co-ordinate its efforts in order to optimize the benefits of deepened relations with Brazil, a symposium on joint relations agreed on Wednesday.
Against the backdrop of an acknowledgement of the benefits which will accrue to both countries, especially after the recent opening of the Takutu River Bridge, the need for the right mechanisms to be in place was emphasised. Guyana is positioned to foster a deeper South American integration, following from its geographical position as well as its uniqueness in being the only English-speaking territory in South America. In this vein panellists of the University of Guyana-organized discussion ventured to share perspectives on “Bridging Borders-Problems and Prospects in Guyana–Brazil Relations within the context of South American Integration.” It was organized by the School of Education and Humanities.
Brazil’s recently-appointed ambassador to Guyana Luis Gilberto Seixas De Andrade, in leading the discussions, focused on the potential benefits offered by the Takutu River Bridge as well as economic prospects. However, he said, the full potential would not be realized until the Linden–Lethem road is paved and in this vein he reiterated the commitment of Brazilian President Lula DaSilva who signalled assistance in such a project.
But while these opportunities are very much alive it was emphasized that Guyana must conceptualise how it will move its efforts forward. The Brazilian ambassador emphasised that while his government expected more opportunities and prospects than problems, interactions would also bring with it issues. As a result, a special committee comprising of members from both sides are to meet to come up with solutions at a meeting to he held on November 12 and 13.
Meanwhile, former Foreign Trade Minister Dr Henry Jeffrey made the call for proper and focused intervention to reap maximum benefits. Jeffrey, who is now a senior lecturer in the Department of International Relations, told the gathering that while the possibilities are there, “they will not materialize by us simply saying that they are there.” “You must have a focused body or maybe a southern development agency, as I called it, or some forum that would pull all the pieces together in collaboration with other institutions and drive the process. It wouldn’t just happen…or perhaps it will but then we won’t optimize the benefits if we do not have the kind of organisational relationship,” he emphasised.
He noted that such a body would look into and assess the kind of border institutions necessary and while we have several agreements with the South American sister state, one organization should co-ordinate everything. He pointed out that European countries for instance spend more than $700M Euros each year in the maintenance of border institutions.
Further building his case, Jeffrey stated that Guyana could be the provider of many services and tap into many investment opportunities. He also acknowledged that many implications could come along, including threats from criminal enterprises, health concerns and political problems and stressed that a focused institution could address these issues. “We can’t have the minister of public works doing road signs, the ministry of home affairs responsible for road agreements and the ministry of trade looking at the partial scope agreement. Such a facility is important and the possibilities are there,” he stressed.
Looking at the needs in education, Jeffrey spoke to the proposal of the introduction of a course in border and development studies, which he said was touted during his tenure as Foreign Trade Minister. He pointed out that borders are very dynamic areas but efforts would be made to have that kind of study implemented.
Meanwhile, former Ambassador to Brazil Dr. Cheryl Miles, who was also part of the panel, urged a conversion of the apprehension about the influx of Brazilians to these shores into an informed appreciation for the country, based on knowledge about it and its people. She is an optimist of one integration movement which will in the future encompass both Latin America and the Caribbean. However, she said there are asymmetries which will have to be addressed for an equal playing field for integration.
Miles pointed to the Union of South American Countries which came from a less ambitious objective; it was based on a geographic concept, since it was observed that the continent of South America had been lagging behind in terms of integration. This union she said was open for associate membership based on provisions in the treaty which established it and this was an avenue that would be explored at some stage.
In terms of deepening relations between Guyana and Brazil, however, she emphasised that it was up to the private sector to take its own path in terms of establishing relations with their counterparts in the South American region. To this end, she pointed to a language barrier and admonished that this was no longer an issue. “We cannot hide behind that any longer… In Guyana we have an ample opportunity as the only English-speaking country to be able to teach it… we just have not grasped that opportunity,” she said.
Meanwhile, she called on the University of Guyana and other educational institutions to take the lead in the process of development. She emphasised that it was important that there be engagement with the hinterland and close continental neighbours. She was certain that the youths would take up the challenges but insisted that the right framework had to be established.
Former university lecturer Dr. John Miles, as a representative of the Amazonia, stressed that Guyana and other South American countries have not been taking advantage of the recognisability of the Amazon rainforest. He noted that it would give Guyana the high visibility it deserves and give it impetus to promote itself. He noted too that membership to the Amazonia puts Guyana with other members who face the same challenges in terms of management of forest resources which have become important in the mitigation of climate change.